Friday, 25 April 2014

How to plan your career - the next five years


Whether you’re working your dream job or considering a career change, one thing is certain: you must plan ahead, if you want to be successful in the long-run.

“Where do you see yourself in five years?” – is this a familiar question? Of course it is, because everyone has been asked this question at least once in their lives. Although it may seem daunting at first, planning five years ahead can make a huge (and positive) difference.

If you’re an IT professional, certifications are very likely to be essential components of your career progress. Therefore you should put great emphasis on planning your future training. Consider the following points when thinking about new qualifications:
What do you have to learn in the coming years?
  • Do you need multiple certifications?
  • Do you have expiring certifications?
  • Polish your non-technical skills
  • How can you build your network of professionals?
Set SMART goals, but first…

Climbing the career ladder will involve a significant investment of your time, effort and money. Therefore, it’s advised to treat it as a business investment and set your expectations, goals and most importantly milestones with deadlines. To ensure success, your goals have to be SMART - Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely.

However, it can be hard to set SMART goals without having considered the points listed above, so let’s see what you should keep in mind to come up with a great career plan.

Answer these questions to help yourself

1) What do you have to learn in the coming years?

Have you recently come across something particular that is likely to be a requirement in your field? This can be something related to new technology, an update to in-demand certifications or a completely new qualification. 

But don’t think about your current job only. Is there something you find interesting and can benefit you in the future? Think of a certification, that is not related to your current position or industry, but could kick-start your career in a new field.

You should definitely keep your eye on emerging technologies like big data or cloud computing and new certifications in these technologies. 

2) Do you need multiple certifications?

Sometimes one certification is all you need, but there can be situations when you need more to achieve your goals. Think of the ways how you could benefit from getting more certifications:
  • Get them done in one go and save time
  • Negotiate a deal/discount when you register for more than one course
  • Spend a few extra days to get a higher level cert or a combination

3) Do you have expiring certifications?

Some qualifications expire sooner than others and recertification ways differ as well. Microsoft's MCSE and MCSD certifications for example need upgrading every three years, while recertification timeframe for Cisco certs ranges from two to five years.

Not all certs require you to retrain or pass an exam in order to keep your credentials valid. Still, it's important to keep an eye on the certifications you already have, because it may be a long process to revive them. You should also look out for any retiring examinations, in case you’d need them before they stop running.

Plan ahead and you can avoid stressing out about deadlines and workload.

4) Polish your non-technical skills

When planning your career, it is important that you focus on skills that are not technically related to your job, but help you do it. Are you confident your messages are always clear and comprehensible? You would never imagine how improving your written or verbal communication could help you do your job. This is especially true if you’re a manager and you need to be certain that your employees understand what’s required of them.

Once you have identified the fields in which you need to improve, you can start thinking about the ways to do it. Do you need to attend a training course? Can you learn relevant skills on the job? But perhaps you've already got the skills you just need to perfect them.

You can develop your soft skills and get better at your job by using the resources of the National Careers Service or Mind Tools

5) How can you build your network of professionals?

Get your calendar out and circle some events where you could make new connections and exchange ideas with fellow professionals. If you’re not able to attend conferences, expos or exhibitions you should still try to network with people in your industry. The internet is full of great forums, such as Stack Exchange, Spiceworks, Microsoft TechNet or CertForums. You can also find social media groups, like CISCO CERTIFIED, or IT SECURITY EXPERT on LinkedIn and industry associations such as techUK, CompTIA or SIIA where you can get in contact with like-minded peers.

Building your network is important, but maintaining your existing one is even more so. Take a look at your contacts and make a list of those who you haven’t contacted in the last year. Give them a call; they may have heard some news you haven’t.

Plan before you plan

It may sound strange, but it makes sense. Make planning a habit, or better yet a ritual. Before you start planning, make sure that you’re away from all distractions and you can fully focus on where you want to be in the future. If you can do that, you’ll have a much easier time outlining what you want to achieve.

Create a to-do-list and include every step you need to take to reach your goal. Because training can be costly, it’s very useful to plan your budget so that you’re always on top of how much you can invest in yourself.

Last but not least, you should also consider mapping your career path so that you can refer back to it and see the progress you’ve made and how successfully you’ve coped with changes around you.

About the Author:       
Sarah writes for Firebrand Training on a number of IT related topics. This includes exams, training, certification trends, project management, certification, careers advice and the industry itself. Sarah has 11 years of experience in the IT industry. 

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Top tips for passing your CISM or CISA exam


ISACA extended its exam registration deadline until 22 April, which means one thing: it’s time to start preparing.

CISA and CISM are top credentials for IT security professionals specialising in managing, auditing, developing and reviewing information security systems and for developing best organisational security practices. Because of their high prestige, CISA and CISM are not easy to get, but if you follow these tips, you’ll be on the right track:

  • First thing’s first, read ISACA’s CISA or CISM review manual, as it provides you with the content, structure and main topics of the exam. Make sure you understand the key areas, but don’t just focus on the main bits, read everything at least once. It's better to not leave things to chance, right?
  • Take notes. It may be old school, but it works. Writing things down helps you remember and familiarise yourself with the concepts.
  • Once you're confident in your knowledge of most, if not all of the basic concepts of CISA or CISM, you can start testing yourself. Read the review questions, answers and explanations.
  • Remember, you’re not a student. You're an IT professional, and you have to manage IT systems efficiently, whilst making good, informed decisions.
  • Last minute revision: some say it’s good, some say it’s bad. Your call. Because you can’t take the CISA or CISM review manuals into the exam, it may be worthwhile to skim through the key areas 30 min before the exam.

Some people tend to get more nervous than others when it comes to taking an exam, so here are some general tips for keeping your cool before and during your exam:

  • Take a break every now and then. Doing long sessions of study or revision without a break won’t get you far, because you’ll lose focus. Take at least a 5-10 minute break for every 50 minutes of work.
  • Read it out. Verbal memorisation is often a better way to learn than just reading in silence.
  • Drink plenty of water to stay focused and hydrated.
  • Try to avoid caffeine. Whether it’s a cup of coffee or a can of Red Bull, caffeine will make you feel more anxious, so try to avoid it before going to your exam.
  • Do a bit of exercise. It gets your blood flowing and you’ll feel fresh. It also increases your focus.

Good luck. 

About the Author:        
Sarah writes for Firebrand Training on a number of IT related topics. This includes exams, training, certification trends, project management, certification, careers advice and the industry itself. Sarah has 11 years of experience in the IT industry. 

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Windows XP 2001-2014 R.I.P.


Today, after almost 13 years in service, Microsoft has ended support for Windows XP. Don’t worry if your computer is running XP it will still be booting, however it is likely to become an easy target for viruses and hackers, as there’ll be no more security updates for the operating system.

Popular ‘till the end

Windows XP has undoubtedly been one of the most popular operating systems of Microsoft. In fact, even on its death bed, XP’s still enjoying over 27% market share, according to Netmarketshare.

Despite the fact that the end didn’t come out of the blue, there are hundreds (if not thousands) of organisations that have no other option, but to pay for custom support. Otherwise, they’d be exposed to huge risks.

The UK government is one of the entities paying Microsoft a huge sum, £5.5m to be exact, for an extra year of support on Windows XP. And according to the latest news, the Dutch government is following the British lead. The amount in the Dutch case is unknown, but reports claim that the government owns 35,000-40,000 PCs running XP, and Microsoft is likely to charge around £160 per computer for tailored support.

Continue at your own risk

Because there’ll be no more official security updates and fixes, security firms are warning you that using XP can place your PC and data at increased risk of infection and compromise by cyber-thieves.

According to research by security firm Kaspersky, users running Windows XP already faced a disproportionate risk of falling victim to malware. Senior research analyst Dave Emm said: "Our data indicates that less than one fifth of our customers run Windows XP but more than a quarter of infections are Windows XP-based".

He also added: "Effectively, every vulnerability discovered after 8 April will become a zero-day vulnerability - that is, one for which there is not and never will be, a patch".

Private users are not the only ones at risk

As we mentioned in an earlier post, many of the world's ATMs are still running Windows XP, which puts them at significant risk.

According to the German AV-Test group, "Malware writers go for the low hanging fruits because it's a lot easier to infect systems running on an old Windows XP operating system compared to brand-new Windows 8.1, with all its built-in security features”. Therefore, banks should come up with rock solid safety measures, in order to prevent breaches to the systems of their cash machines.

Upgrade now

If you or your company are still using Windows XP, we strongly recommend you to take action now and upgrade through Microsoft’s Get Modern initiative.

About the Author:        
Sarah writes for Firebrand Training on a number of IT related topics. This includes exams, training, certification trends, project management, certification, careers advice and the industry itself. Sarah has 11 years of experience in the IT industry. 

Eight reasons why you should get PRINCE2® certified


There are various project management certifications available, however the PRINCE2® is definitely one of the most prestigious, popular, and practical. The certification is internationally recognised and PRINCE2 certified project managers are sought after.

Get certified and you’ll be able to implement PRINCE2 in your projects. 
Here’s why your organisation needs it:

Tried & TestedPRINCE2 has been one of the fundamental methodologies in project management for over 30 years. A methodology so mature can really make a difference in certain projects, because of the solid foundation with precedents from the past.

Clear Organisation Structure: PRINCE2 outlines clear roles and responsibilities. Team members are assigned a role or roles at the beginning of the project. With clearly defined roles, it is ensured that team members are aware of their tasks and understand their responsibilities.

Planning: In order to deliver the project successfully, PRINCE2 divides it into smaller, more manageable stages. Following the methodology large-scale projects will be more manageable, and project milestones can be achieved more easily.

Standardisation: With the PRINCE2 methodology in practice, everyone involved in the project is using a common approach and language. The standardised procedures reduce the chances of miscommunications and bring clarity to the project, while time can also be saved in auditing and recruitment.  

Step by Step Method: PRINCE2 provides project managers with a step by step method from start to finish. It focuses on the project’s deliverables, making the project an organised and controlled process. The methodology also allows for regular reviews of the project’s progress against the plan, so any risks or potential problems can be dealt with promptly.

Customisation: PRINCE2 is not carved into stone. It can be tailored to fit the agenda of any organisation and project. It’s suitable for projects of any size and type.

Change Management: Organisations can be subject to change throughout a project. PRINCE2 addresses change by ensuring regular project reviews are carried out to monitor the continued viability of the project and making sure that adequate change management is in place.

Free to Use: PRINCE2 is free to use, which means any business, regardless of size or type can benefit from it.

Get certified on our world exclusive, three-day long PRINCE2 course. You’ll get both the Foundation & Practitioner exams in one go.   

About the Author:       
Sarah writes for Firebrand Training on a number of IT related topics. This includes exams, training, certification trends, project management, certification, careers advice and the industry itself. Sarah has 11 years of experience in the IT industry. 

Friday, 4 April 2014

Get every training course you’ll ever need, at no cost – here’s how


Firebrand re-launched its Free Training For Life competition, giving you the chance to get free access to all the Firebrand training courses for the rest of your life. Will you be the winner of the £1 million prize? View the competition’s details and give yourself a chance to win!

From networking to information security

If you’re the lucky winner, you’ll be able to choose from Firebrand’s 165+ training courses. Whether you’re a networking professional, an enterprise architect or a security professional, there are plenty of courses, which will help you to get better in your field of expertise.

Never want to pay for training again? Enter by clicking the button below.

Free Training For Life - Firebrand Training

What's it like to win? Watch this video with Joseph, last year's winner:

Increase your chances of winning

Once you've filled out the entry form, you will be given your unique URL which you can share with your friends and followers. Every time someone enters using your unique URL, it will earn you an extra entry to the draw. So if 10 people enter that's 10 extra entries, if a 100 people enter, that's a 100 extra entries and so on.

Don't wait any longer, message your friends, put it on social media or maybe even put it on your blog if you write one.

For full terms and conditions, click here:

About the Author:        
Sarah writes for Firebrand Training on a number of IT related topics. This includes exams, training, certification trends, project management, certification, careers advice and the industry itself. Sarah has 11 years of experience in the IT industry. 

Thursday, 3 April 2014

CompTIA gives free access to its research and study materials


CompTIA, one of the world’s biggest IT industry associations is widening access to its resources by making them available to registered users, at no cost. Why? “To have a greater impact on the IT industry.”

Membership reinvented

The aim of CompTIA’s new initiative is to enable anyone interested in IT and the tech industry to access research results, training guides and business tools without charge. Nancy Hammervik, senior vice president for industry relations at CompTIA said: “We no longer want to be the industry’s best kept secret, but its best-kept resource, instead”.

High expectations

One of CompTIA’s missions is to drive workforce development and the company hopes that with its new access model, the number of professionals seeking training and certification will increase. The company expects the individual involvement of professionals to increase to 20,000 in the next few years. Considering that the initial soft launch already attracted 5,000 professionals, the expectations seem realistic.

CEO of CompTIA Todd Thibodeaux said: “The IT industry is changing rapidly, and channel partners, as well as IT professionals, business owners, and consumers, are eager for real-world insights and resources that will help them make more informed decisions and offer guidance on the future of IT. CompTIA is uniquely positioned to be that voice and resource, which is why we’re opening up the vault to registered users and introducing greater exclusivity and value for our members.”

Premier membership

The new premier membership is open only to distributors, vendors, and other "companies serving the IT channel".  Existing CompTIA members automatically become premier members as of April 1. Premier membership allows users priority access to CompTIA training and education resources, “exclusive business tools” and services. It also provides unlimited, complimentary CompTIA event registrations. The extension of the premier membership will cost £150 annually. Vendors will be required to pay between £375-£3,000 per year, depending on their size.

CompTIA training with Firebrand

Firebrand is an Authorized Training Partner of CompTIA. This means that we have access to the latest official curriculum, and the best instructors. We offer an ever-growing offering selection of CompTIA certifications, including these ones.

About the Author:        
Sarah writes for Firebrand Training on a number of IT related topics. This includes exams, training, certification trends, project management, certification, careers advice and the industry itself. Sarah has 11 years of experience in the IT industry. 

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Windows Service Centre scam calls – man gets suspended jail sentence and a fine


If you’re following tech news you have surely heard about the infamous Windows Service Centre scam calls. Or if you were “lucky” enough, you may even have received the call, which started like this: “I am calling from Microsoft’s Windows Service Centre. We’ve had a report from you service provider of virus problems on your computer.”

However, if this is the first time you hear about this scam, read our previous article, reciting the story of a scam call, received by Firebrand’s Senior Microsoft Instructor, Mike Brown. 

Following the events of the past few days, the frequency of these calls is likely to dramatically decrease, because the man behind the scam has been sentenced, in a landmark case. 

Successful prosecution of man hiring scammers

The convicted man, from Luton, hired operators at an Indian call centre to impersonate Microsoft employees and convince their victims that their computers had viruses. He has received a four-month jail sentence, suspended for 12 months, as well as a fine of £5,000.
On top of the fine, he must also pay almost £14,000 in prosecution costs and over £5,000 compensation.

New precedent established?

Lord Toby Harris, chairman of the National Trading Standards Board said: "We believe it may be the first ever successful prosecution of someone involved in the Microsoft scam in the UK”.

“Now that one of the many individuals who've been operating this scam has been brought to justice, it's a stark warning to anyone else still doing it that they can be caught and will be prosecuted."

How to avoid tech support phone scams

Don’t fall victim to scam callers, read the guide in Microsoft’s Safety & Security Centre and avoid tech support phone scams.

About the Author:        
Sarah writes for Firebrand Training on a number of IT related topics. This includes exams, training, certification trends, project management, certification, careers advice and the industry itself. Sarah has 11 years of experience in the IT industry. 

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

UK launches Computer Emergency Response Team to deal with cyber security incidents


Keeping the UK safe in cyber space” reads in the official press release about CERT-UK, the UK’s national Computer Emergency Response Team, which will prepare for and deal with national cyber security incidents.

Besides responding to threats, the body will also act as an advisory and provide alerts on cyber hazards to government, corporations and educational institutions.

CERT-UK will provide advice and guidance to help companies prepare and protect themselves, as well as expertise to help respond promptly once an incident has occurred.

It’s an important step

Francis Maude, Cabinet Office Minister responsible for Cyber Security said:
“This government’s most important task is to protect our security and ensure Britain is a safe place to work, live and do business. That’s why I’m delighted to launch the UK’s Cyber Emergency Response Team.”

“We know government cannot do everything by itself. CERT-UK shows we want closer coordination between government, business and academia to share insight and advice, as well as better cooperation with our international partners.”

“The job of protecting our security will never be done – it will always be a work in progress. But, from today, CERT-UK means we are better prepared, better informed, better connected and ultimately more resilient.”

Main responsibilities

CERT-UK has four main responsibilities, all following the UK Cyber Security Strategy:
  • National cyber security incident management
  • Supporting critical national infrastructure companies in handling cyber security incidents
  • Promoting cyber security situational awareness across industry, academia and the public sector
  • Providing the single international point of contact for co-ordination and co-operation with other nations’ CERTs

Meet the director

Although CERT-UK had its official launch yesterday, director Chris Gibson, formerly the director of e-crime at Citigroup, was appointed in November and he has been working as head of the body ever since.

With over 9 years of experience on the leadership team of the international Forum of Incident Response and Security Teams (FIRST), with the last 2 as global chair, Gibson is a globally recognised expert on cyber incident response. 

He was also a member of the British Bankers’ Association (BBA) Cyber Advisory Panel and for 10 years one of Citigroup’s representatives to the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure’s Financial Service’s Information Exchange.

Watch the following video of Chris Gibson introducing CERT-UK at the International Cyber Security Forum in January. 

Become an expert in IT security

Get ahead of the curve, learn about the latest security threats and protect your organisation by becoming certified on our accelerated IT security courses.

About the Author:        
Sarah writes for Firebrand Training on a number of IT related topics. This includes exams, training, certification trends, project management, certification, careers advice and the industry itself. Sarah has 11 years of experience in the IT industry.